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UCI Health receives renewal as Orange County’s only federally-designated comprehensive cancer center

August 04, 2016
UCI Health Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center exterior
UCI Health Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center

The National Cancer Institute has renewed the UCI Health Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center designation as a comprehensive cancer center and bestowed an “excellent” rating in its scientific review of the center’s capabilities. The distinction is the highest in the center’s 24 years as an NCI-designated cancer center.

“The Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center is an incredible resource for more than three million residents of Orange County and beyond,” said Howard J. Federoff, MD, PhD, vice chancellor, Health Affairs, and CEO, UCI Health. “The NCI’s comprehensive designation reflects our commitment to clinical care along with excellence in research, education and outreach.”

UCI Health features one of only 48 NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the United States. It is Orange County’s only such center and is the only local institution where people with advanced-stage or treatment-resistant diseases can access early-phase clinical trials involving the very latest therapies.

“A strong research base, in particular, helps drive progress,” said cancer center director Richard A. Van Etten, MD, PhD.  “It is our mission to translate the findings of basic research into treatments that can benefit patients.”

"Institutions lacking their own research base can quickly follow and adopt advances developed elsewhere, but they cannot lead in the same way comprehensive cancer centers that integrate research with clinical care can," Van Etten said.  

Established in 1989 as Orange County's first cancer center, the UC Irvine Cancer Center achieved its initial NCI cancer center designation in 1994, and received the comprehensive designation in 1997. It was renamed in honor of the Chao family as the Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, operating fully integrated research, prevention, diagnostic, treatment and rehabilitation programs. Since 2008, patient access to the center’s more than 150 clinical trials has increased 90 percent. 

Van Etten is internationally recognized for his groundbreaking research on chronic myeloid leukemia and other hematological malignancies. Prior to coming to UC Irvine in 2013 and succeeding founding director Dr. Frank L. Meyskens, Van Etten directed a highly successful research laboratory at Tufts Medical Center, funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, at the Molecular Oncology Research Institute.

A generous donation in 2014 created The Sue and Ralph Stern Center for Cancer Clinical Trials and Research, which will increase both the number and complexity of outcomes-focused clinical trials available to patients.

In 2015, leading leukemia expert Susan O’Brien, MD, joined UCI Health from the MD Anderson Cancer Center to expand the portfolio of early phase clinical trials and launch a formal Experimental Therapeutics Program in her role as medical director of the Stern center.

Plans for the cancer center include launching a bone marrow transplant program.

In recent years, UC Irvine cancer center members have led practice-changing research and clinical trials that have extended survival in lung cancer, cervical cancer and metastatic breast cancer and have called attention to the significant disparities that exist in access to the top treatments for ovarian cancer.  

In addition to its primary location at UC Irvine Medical Center campus in Orange, the Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center delivers care at the UCI Health Cancer Center – Newport and at UCI Health Pacific Breast Care Center, both in Costa Mesa.

UCI Health comprises the clinical, medical education and research enterprises of the University of California, Irvine. Patients can access UCI Health at physician offices throughout Orange County and at its main campus, UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange, Calif., a 417-bed acute care hospital that provides tertiary and quaternary care, ambulatory and specialty medical clinics, behavioral health and rehabilitation. U.S. News & World Report has listed it among America’s Best Hospitals for 16 consecutive years. UC Irvine Medical Center features Orange County’s only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, high-risk perinatal/neonatal program, Level I trauma center and Level II pediatric trauma center, and is the primary teaching hospital for UC Irvine School of Medicine. UCI Health serves a region of more than 3 million people in Orange County, western Riverside County and southeast Los Angeles County. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UC Irvine is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, the university has more than 30,000 students and offers 192 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $5 billion annually to the local economy. For more on UC Irvine, visit www.uci.edu